After Kiffin’s Move, Focus Shifts to Recruits
Brandon Willis, a defensive end from Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.), was among a handful of football recruits planning to enroll early at Tennessee.
Classes there started Wednesday. But by that afternoon, Willis was on his way to enroll at North Carolina. His trip was spurred by Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin's abrupt departure Tuesday for Southern California.
"I knew we weren't going to Tennessee because (Kiffin) was the only reason we were going," said Brandon's father, Gary Willis. "They called and offered him a scholarship to Southern Cal. I told them, 'If I can't trust you at Tennessee, I can't do Southern Cal, because if somebody offered you more money, you would get up and move again.' "
Recruiting services had ranked Tennessee as a top 10 class. The Vols now must shore up commitments and find a coach with signing day looming Feb. 3.
Kiffin, introduced as USC coach Wednesday night, said he and his staff left Tennessee in better shape than when he arrived. Kiffin also said he does not believe anyone on his staff told Tennessee recruits not to attend class.
Not all Vols recruits are leaving. Quarterback Tyler Bray moved from Kingsburg, Calif., to the Knoxville area with his parents and two brothers. He practiced with the team in December and attended his first class Wednesday morning, along with seven other early enrollees.
Besides Willis, the only recruit who was expected to enroll and didn't was wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins.
Despite the possibility of NCAA sanctions against USC by spring, Kiffin said he was "very confident" it would not affect recruiting.
Famous Hulbert, coach of Proviso West (Hillside, Ill.) wide receiver Kyle Prater, No. 2 in Rivals.com rankings, said Prater intended to enroll at USC next week.
"Kyle is elated about the possibility of playing for Coach Kiffin," Hulbert said. "I wouldn't be surprised if USC gets a top-three or top-five recruiting class."